Influential conservative movement columnist Charles Krauthammer was on FOX news calling the fiscal cliff deal a “rout” and “complete surrender” for House Republicans (link). This is hyperbole, as Krauthammer as well as anyone knows the Republicans “caving” on the fiscal cliff is part of a strategy to gear up for the coming debt-ceiling negotiations (link).
But is this solid strategy? On one hand the GOP clearly perceives they will have more leverage two months from now during the debt-ceiling debate than they do now. The idea is they want to debate “spending cuts” then, not now. And they have a point: the movement’s willingness to default on debt the US has already committed to pay is indeed an extraordinary card to play. Obama has nothing so crazy to match it with.
But this strategy is highly risky. First, it signals even the GOP thinks their ideas on spending and spending cuts cannot be discussed, let alone legislated, under normal law-making conditions. The fiscal cliff was the time to give detailed lists of precise spending cuts: to paint in the actual picture of the Ryan Budget. The GOP refrained from doing anything close to that.
So my question is, during the debt-ceiling negotiations will they be any more willing to actually name spending cuts, to be the explicit author of precise spending cuts? If they are, they have a chance to impose their vision. If not, Obama should not, and will not, do the GOP work for them and name spending cuts.
In front of their own audiences, the movement can communicate in broad language like “government is too big” and “spending must be cut.”
But by itself, that’s not good enough.
The future of the movement rests in large part on finding ways to discuss the details of these spending ideas in front of national, cross-contextual audiences.
During the fiscal-cliff negotiations, they didn’t even attempt to.
We will see what happens going forward.